Bears

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

When Jay Cutler came to the Bears in that 2009 trade with the Denver Broncos, he was “the new guy.” The locker room belonged to Olin Kreutz and Brian Urlacher on their respective sides of the football, and while the quarterback position by definition places its occupant in a necessarily leadership position, that wasn’t the Bears. They weren’t going to be “Cutler’s team,” not for a while.

But Matt Forte exited this past offseason and with him went the last position player – on either side of the ball – who had been here longer than Cutler now has. The reality wasn’t lost on Cutler.

“I was looking at the roster a couple of weeks ago and I feel like there’s been a major shift in experience — especially on the offensive side,” he said. “I’m at 11 [years] and then you look down, there’s a couple of nines, a couple of eights and mostly five and under, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think a new talent and new guys in the building, there’s new energy and new attitude. I’ve embraced it. I’ve enjoyed it. I think the coaching staff’s done a great job of getting all these young guys up to speed. It’s a good group right now.”

It is also a group that looks to Cutler perhaps in ways teammates haven’t. Where Forte was at least the template for an NFL professional for his position group, Cutler now becomes the go-to veteran for everything ranging from details on a play-call to how to behave as a rookie.

It is a role that at times Cutler did not always appear to fit into comfortably, particularly with established veterans and personas that were the Bears’ identity for, in cases like Kreutz and Urlacher, a decade or more. Now, a player once sometimes perceived by outsiders as poutish or petulant has become something of a standard-setter for teammates.

“Obviously Jay does a great job with the younger guys,” said guard Kyle Long. “He brought me along, and continues to bring me along. He can be a little honest and blunt with me from time to time, but beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s the right thing to do in his position, as the leader and vested player.

“The quarterback is the leader of our team. I think he’s done a great job. I see him with the defense a lot, which is something I didn’t see a lot the first few years. I don’t necessarily know if that’s on Jay, or if it’s a perception-of-Jay basis. He’s a great guy. People in that locker room love him. He’s tough as hell. He’s got a cannon. He can run. And he’s a competitor. We love him. He’s been great this offseason and we’re looking forward to seeing how he’ll be this season with this new O-line and with the defense getting us the ball back a lot.”

Tough love approach

Cutler has earned the respect of his teammates. But gaining the confidence of his head coach and general manager through last year were possibly career turning points.

Cutler had been given a contract extension six games into his first (2009) year with the Bears. He responded by leading the NFL in interceptions.

When Phil Emery arrived as general manager, he spoke from the outset of Cutler as a “franchise quarterback” and “elite.” Emery gave Cutler a seven-year contract after the 2013 season, whereupon Cutler again led the league in interceptions in a 5-11 season marked by friction with coordinator Aaron Kromer and coach Marc Trestman, whose staff was fired after that year.

Instead of fawning treatment, Fox, coordinator Adam Gase and GM Ryan Pace were decidedly noncommittal on Cutler through last offseason and into the year. Cutler produced the best statistical year of his career, still not as good as Aaron Rodgers’ poorest single season, but with an overall performance that settled the Bears’ quarterback situation for the foreseeable future.

"I had questions on everybody," Fox said. "You come in, you take a job, you evaluate and you have to make decisions oftentimes before you even meet somebody in Year 1 as a head coach or general manager. They could be robots for all you know. But the game is still about people and relationships.

“I will say this: At the conclusion of the whole season working with Jay, I was very impressed. So I feel way more confident about him."

Kyle Long placed on Injured reserve

kyle_long_ir.jpg
USA Today

Kyle Long placed on Injured reserve

The Bears have guard Kyle Long on injured reserve due to hip injury. The Bears announced they moved DL Abdullah Anderson from the practice squad to the active roster. They have also signed TE Dax Robinson to the practice squad.

Long is a seven-year vet of the Bears and had played the first three games of the 2019 season. He sat on Week 4’s matchup against the Vikings due to his hip but came back to play against the Raiders in London in Week 5.

This news is tough to take considering the Bears offensive struggles this season and Long’s history with the team.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Bears open as favorites in Week 7 vs. Saints

Bears open as favorites in Week 7 vs. Saints

The best thing that can happen to a team coming off of a disappointing loss like the Bears suffered in Week 5 to the Oakland Raiders is time away. Time to get back to basics, work on improving some deficiencies and, sometimes, just getting out of the national spotlight.

The Bears (3-2) will welcome the Saints (5-1) to Soldier Field in Week 7 in a game that would seem to favor New Orleans. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has excelled in relief of Drew Brees, who continues to rehab a thumb injury that will keep him out of Sunday's contest in Chicago. The Saints' defense has been fantastic as well and currently ranks 10th overall in yards allowed per game.

Chicago, meanwhile, is hoping for quarterback Mitch Trubisky's return from a left shoulder injury and is likely to be without Kyle Long (hip; injured reserve) and Akiem Hicks (elbow).

Logic would dictate that New Orleans will be a road favorite in this one, but that isn't the case. At least, not yet.

The Bears open the week as a 3.5-point favorite, which even when factoring the three-point edge home teams usually get still means the oddsmakers like Chicago to win the game outright.

Bears fans may still have the sour taste of defeat after the London letdown, but there are a lot of smart people in Las Vegas who obviously think the Bears have a chance (a really, really good chance) to win Sunday's NFC showdown.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.